Don’t apologize. Please. Today, there are strains of Lutheranism that are, well, not really Lutheran anymore. But to be a confessional Lutheran is to actually confess and believe some very important, unchanging truths.
Martin Luther didn’t want to start a new church. He wanted to reform the existing church from within, but he was kicked out. So he ended up forming a new church. He did say, “The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone...How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?” It’s not about me, he said. It’s about Christ!
The name took hold and it’s still” Lutheran” 500 years later. But it’s not something to apologize for. It’s not something to be embarrassed about, or to be ashamed of, because Lutherans are Christ-centered. This is a simple truth. It’s a powerful truth, to simply proclaim what the Scriptures do. How can I be saved? How do I get right with God? In Christ alone!
This simple, powerful message had been all but lost at Luther’s time. Christianity, believe it or not, was complicated and cluttered in the 1500’s. It was anything but Christ-centered. The church of his day proclaimed Christ, but the message was Christ, plus something else. Christ, plus indulgences. Christ, plus works. Christ, plus penance. Christ, plus piety. Christ, plus prayer. Christ, plus priest as mediator. But if you add something to Christ, if you add anything at all to Christ, what you end up with is: nothing.
Christ plus something equals nothing at all, because, if the way to heaven is Christ plus something then, we’ve got the law in the equation of salvation. But I can’t keep God’s law. No one can. “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:20) In fact, the more we try to be right with God, the more we give him our efforts, the further we are lost.
Luther knew the feeling. He lived it the first half of his life. He anguished over the fact that he could not do enough (really, anything!) to be right with God. Sin and guilt stood in the way for him and for us; an impenetrable, immovable, unclimbable barrier. But then, Luther discovered this, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:21,22)
The righteousness that saves does not come from us. It is not found in the world. It comes from God. It’s a gift from God through faith, as it is found only in Christ.
It’s Jesus righteous, perfect, sinless life, a life that ended in death, a death that was the perfect, bloody, innocent sacrifice on Calvary’s cross, that paid the high, high price of all of our unrighteousness. That this is all God’s doing, is highlighted by these words, “There is no difference because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And then Paul goes on, “And all are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23,24) It’s all about Christ, His righteousness, His sacrifice, His resurrection.
Luther wrote, “God would tie and attach us to this one person, Christ, born of Mary, and having real flesh and blood. We’re neither to seek, nor to find God, for we are to grasp and find God only through faith in the flesh and blood of Christ.” Well, how do we grasp God? How do we become part of his family? It comes through the Gospel, the good news about Jesus.
To say that Lutherans are Christ-centered is also to say that Lutherans (confessional Lutherans) are very serious about the Word and the Sacraments, which are the means of grace, the means by which God gives us his grace. We have the Word of God. Every time we hear it, every time we read it, we see Christ. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” Every time we see a baptism, every time we remember our own baptism. We see Christ. Every time we receive the Lord’s Supper, we see, and taste, and touch Christ, and his forgiveness, in a very personal way. It’s all about Christ!
This devotion is a bit longer than usual and perhaps a bit more theologically heavy than usual. Reformation (October 31) is coming. I won’t apologize! If you made it this far, good. May God continue to strengthen you through his Christ-centered Word offered through the blessing of a Christ-centered Lutheran congregation. Please, don’t apologize for being Lutheran. Rejoice, and praise Christ!
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand